I unfortunately live in an area where cats in particular are treating as discardable things. I’ve dealt firsthand with strays and their resulting sick and dying kittens, and it never ceases to be heartbreaking as well as maddening. The most recent stray that Dan and I have stepped up to help, by taking him into our household, is Felix. We’re not sure of his age, but based on neighbors’ “sightings” and such we’re estimating that he’s at least 8-10 years of age, if not older.
Taking in a stray cat isn’t easy, especially if it’s an older cat and not a kitten; and especially especially so if you already have cats. Cats never take well to newcomers, especially newcomers who aren’t kittens and thus not worth the effort to get bent out of shape over. But with time and patience, a new cat can be successfully added to a brood – in our case, Felix makes the sixth (Alcide is a stray we took in this past July).
- Isolate the new cat. You’ll want to do this for health reasons, obviously (get the cat to a vet or clinic asap for a check-up as well as vaccinations). But you’ll also want to do it in order to give him time to adjust to being indoors, and just as importantly, to give any existing pets (cats, dogs) time to adjust to the scent, sound, and overall presence of a new cat.
- Bathe the new cat, and clip his claws, too – but preferably in the opposite order. We were fortunate in that neither Alcide or Felix minded bathing. Both are big boys, but both just sat calmly while we scrubbed them down.
- For bathing: use Dawn or a similar “basic” dish detergent instead of shampoo. It’s great for stripping dirt and debris from fur, and it’s also excellent for smothering and killing fleas! Start by making a thick, frothy ring around the neck of the cat, as this’ll prevent any fleas that are present from running up to the cat’s head to hide (fleas are smart little bastards).
- If you see or suspect fleas, administer a tapeworm treatment; I use and recommend Praziquantel. It can cause minor digestive upset (loose stools, sometimes vomiting), but is otherwise pretty “mellow” in terms of side effects, yet quite effective.
- Provide plenty of food and water – of course!
- Remove all upholstered items, if possible. Strays are known for relieving themselves wherever, and even with the presence of a litter box they may not initially realize that your shower curtain or a pillow is not an appropriate place to go.
- Keep the cat isolated for at least a week, possibly longer if you have cats that seem upset by his presence. Provide plenty of positive attention and reinforcement to all: frequent petting, treats, affection, etc.